Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor June 24 2016

Given that the Fourth of July (U.S. Independence Day) is approaching, I was scanning back through the Declaration of Independence and was reminded of the profound commitment of the signatories at the end of that document:

And for support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

We know how that pledge turned out, and the transformation of this country that ensued.  What is interesting about the Revolutionary War is that, although American casualties were low compared to most other wars (25,000), in terms of percentage of the population killed, it was the second highest of any U.S. war.  At 0.9%, it is second only to the Civil War’s percentage killed (2.4%).  In other words, the founders knew there were considerable risks involved, and as it happened, 14 of the 56 signers died in the conflict  (see www.bucklinsociety.net). They did indeed pledge their lives. 

It struck me that a number of the significant moments in American history revolve around self-sacrifice and selflessness for a noble cause or as an inspiration to other people.  With the words “Four score and seven years ago,” Abraham Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address” picked up on this theme, referencing the Declaration of Independence. In perhaps the most well-known, profound, and concise speech by a politician in American history (only ten sentences long),  Lincoln eloquently and solemnly dedicated the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, the burial ground for more men in this three-day battle than died in the entire Revolutionary War.  Here are some excerpts:

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.… It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.  

He ended his speech with the following reminder:

“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln himself recognized that he was a target, and understood what it meant to sacrifice one’s own life for a cause.  

We see from these examples that people are willing to die for causes they believe in or for people they see as their friends or brothers.  Romans 5:7 acknowledges that 

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.”  

In other words, some people are so noble as to sacrifice their lives for a good person or a cause they believe in.  But then comes Romans 5:8, which shows the vast and immeasurable love - far beyond human love - demonstrated by God Himself.   

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Hardly anyone will die for someone they believe does not deserve it.  But Jesus did exactly that.  Romans 5:10 explains even more:

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  

So on this remembrance of Independence Day, we are deeply thankful for those who sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the freedoms we have come to enjoy.  But even more, we are filled with humble gratitude for the sacrifice of the One who loved sinners and enemies far beyond what we ever deserved.  

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Steve Smith